Riverton man convicted of murder in the 2nd degree Friday

(Lander, WY) – The week-long jury trial for Riverton resident Mario Mills concluded on Friday, March 12th in the 9th Judicial District Court with the Honorable Judge Jason Conder presiding.

The State, represented by prosecuting Fremont County Attorney Patrick LeBrun and Deputy Attorney Dan Stebner sought to charge Mills with murder in the 1st degree for the death of 37-year-old Trevor Bartlett who died from a gunshot wound to the head in the early morning hours of March 26th, 2020.

Just after 3:00 pm on Friday, the jury of 12 found Mills guilty of a lesser charge – murder in the 2nd degree. The verdict was accepted by the court, and a sentencing hearing will be held in 60-90 days. This charge carries a minimum of 20 years of imprisonment.

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During the trial, several witnesses took the stand on behalf of the prosecution and the defense represented by Casper Attorneys Donald Fuller, Robert Oldham, and Ryan Semerad.

The defense did not deny Mills played a role in Bartlett’s death, however, they argued a 20+ year friendship that mirrored that of brothers could not have ended in premeditated malice one drunken night.

It was reiterated during the trial, Bartlett was an alcoholic who suffered from depression and suicidal ideations. Unable to take his own life, he had made a list of people that he planned to kill and would then die from suicide by cop.

Bartlett’s mother took the stand on Mills’ behalf. In an emotional testimony, she discussed their brotherly relationship and how she and Mills both tried to get Bartlett help numerous times over the years.

Unknown to the prosecution before the trial, she also discovered a duffel bag containing a gun and numerous rounds of ammo sitting by the door of Bartlett’s residence. Indicating his plan to “go out in a blaze of glory” was imminent.

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The defense also questioned the chain of custody for the evidence and crime scene – citing contamination and confirmation bias. In addition, Mills, the only witness to what transpired between them, did not have his BAC checked. Bartlett had a .314 BAC, and it was speculated that as “drinking buddies” Mills had a similar number. A level that was called “blindingly drunk” by an expert witness for the defense.

Testimonies for the prosecution ranged from the 911 dispatcher to a forensic scientist from the Wyoming State Crime Lab. Physical evidence such as the gun, clothing, and photographs of the scene were also shown.

The prosecution maintained that the evidence aligned with Mills’ confession during his interview with the Riverton Police Department – which was also played for the jury. Though Bartlett asked Mills to end his life, they explained you cannot consent to be killed and no level of alcohol absolves a person from killing someone.

After everything was presented and closing arguments completed, the jury was tasked with deciding what level of participation Mills had in his friend’s death.

Their deliberation lasted over three hours and they came to the unanimous decision that Mills purposefully and maliciously but without premeditation killed Bartlett.

With or without premeditation is what differs between murder in the 1st degree and murder in the 2nd degree.

County 10 will share an update following Mills’ sentencing in the coming months.

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